Belfast Telegraph

Shock as Northern Ireland man solves mystery of the world's most coveted stamp ... but who is he?

Auction house stunned after 'Inverted Jenny' resurfaces... 61 years after it disappeared

The legendary Inverted Jenny stamp which went missing in 1955
The legendary Inverted Jenny stamp which went missing in 1955
Scott English
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

A young Northern Ireland man has sparked one of the biggest sensations in the stamp-collecting world for years.

The mystery man, who is in his 20s, walked into a New York auction house last month with an Inverted Jenny - arguably the rarest, most sought-after and most valuable postage stamp in history.

Its sale could make him an overnight millionaire.

Inverted Jennies are so called because they depict a US Mail biplane, erroneously printed upside down, on a 24 cent stamp.

One hundred made it into circulation in 1918 after inspectors failed to spot the mistake in a Washington DC printing works.

They have become almost mythical among stamp collectors ever since. And this particular one - No.76 - is now under tight security, having resurfaced after an astonishing 61 years at Spink auctioneers in Manhattan.

Are you the mystery man? If so please email or contact @ClaireMcBelfast on Twitter

The hitherto missing stamp, which even featured in an episode of The Simpsons, was one of a block of four owned by the daughter of an executive at Dow Jones & Company, which disappeared from an exhibition in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1955.

George Eveleth, the head of Spink's philatelic department, said the Northern Ireland man arrived in the Big Apple with the long-lost stamp having emailed him about it a few weeks earlier.

"His email said he would be in New York shortly, and would like to bring the item to our office," added Mr Eveleth.

"Apparently, his grandfather had died a couple of years ago, leaving him some stamps. He didn't know the collection he inherited included one that was of such significant value. I think that he got curious, started looking through the pile of stamps, did some research online and then realised it might be worth some money."

Mr Eveleth said that an impeccable condition Inverted Jenny could sell for as much as £1.1m at auction in the US.

Scott English (left), executive director of the American Philatelic Society, said the Ulsterman maintained that he did not know how his grandfather had acquired the stamp, which is now the subject of an ownership dispute likely to be resolved in its current guardian's favour.

The man with the distinctive local accent brought with him a letter from a long-gone Manhattan dealer, SH Engel & Company, which was dated October 1965, and which outlined a buyback agreement to a collector who had sold the stamp for $9,500.

"Engel gave the collector the right to repurchase the stamp for $11,500 within a year, and my assumption is that the collector never came back and the stamp was sold to another customer," said Mr English.

The Inverted Jenny was authenticated by experts earlier this month.

But the mystery Northern Ireland man has yet to get his hands on the money because his treasure is technically the subject of a $100,000 reward, put up by the American Philatelic Research Library in 2014 for information leading to the recovery of No.76.

It is expected, however, that the library's board will vote to take ownership of the precious item in time for this weekend's World Stamp Show in New York - an event that only comes around every 10 years - thus clearing the way for a substantial payment to be made to its anonymous finder.

Are you or do you know who the Northern Ireland man with the precious stamp is? If so please email or contact @ClaireMcBelfast on Twitter

Belfast Telegraph


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